And so it was that the Rangers finally landed their right-handed reserve bat, more than seven months after the Mike Lowell-to-Texas trade was nixed (and two-and-a-half months after the Ryan Garko experiment crashed and burned), and all was right in the baseball universe. Too overwrought? Okay. Well, at least we can put an end to all of this trite speculation/rumor-mongering.
Neither party in this deal has yet declared it official (as of 5:30 p.m. CDT, that is), but multiple sources -- including Joel Sherman of the New York Post -- confirmed Thursday afternoon that Texas acquired corner-infielder Jorge Cantu from the Marlins in exchange for minor league right-handers Evan Reed and Omar Poveda; Florida is reportedly subsidizing the $2.1 million remaining on Cantu's 2010 contract to the tune of $600,000, bringing the Rangers' total accepted salary relief in their three mid-season trades to a grand total of $4.85 million.
What is Jorge Cantu? Well, what he's not is a second baseman in anything beyond an emergency, Andres Blanco-as-a-catcher sort of capacity; yes, he's logged more than 1,850 major league innings at the keystone, but grades out as a defensive liability at both second and third base to the tune of around 15-20 runs below average per season. His problematic range is one thing, but his recent penchant for errors earned him a one-on-one conversation with Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez and a day on the bench -- and that was earlier this week. Fortunately, the Rangers are acquiring him as a first baseman first and foremost, masking some of his defensive inadequacies.
The bigger issue, though, is that the Rangers acquired a .259/.308/.408-hitting first baseman who, frankly speaking, isn't much of a hitter at this point. Cantu directs the majority of his base hits towards left/center field -- although he's shown some ability to go the opposite way this season, particularly towards the right-center field gap -- and brandishes some decent pull power, but his walk-to-strikeout ratio is being undermined by a 37.3 percent out-of-zone swing ratio that's tied for the sixth-worst mark in the National League. He's also not hitting southpaws this year (.253/.295/.425; .311 wOBA), but actually did so at a respectable clip in 2008-09, so perhaps there's hope yet in that regard.
Neither Poveda nor Reed were significant prospects, although we shouldn't have expected that to be the case in a trade such as this one anyway. As a reported two-pitch guy with 93-95 mph velocity but unexceptional secondary pitches, the 24-year-old Reed found some success out of Double-A Frisco's bullpen and recently earned a promotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City; however, non-elite relief prospects are pretty fungible. Poveda, a rehabbing victim of elbow-ligament replacement surgery, touted the best change-up in the system -- described by Jason Parks as a "Bugs Bunny change-up" before succumbing to injury, and remains moderately interesting, but never projected beyond a No. 4-5 starter and will need some post-rehab things to break right for him if he is to remain relevant on the prospect map.
Cantu's projected rest-of-season wOBA (.326) is actually lower than that of Chris Davis (.329), but I think there's some reason to believe that (a) Cantu could beat that, particularly as a result of moving to a more hitter-friendly ballpark, and (b) that Davis will continue to flail and struggle, in which case Mitch Moreland's stay on the active roster may prove to be not all that temporary. If you squint your eyes hard enough and cock your head to one side, you can see this move possibly translating into a half-win upgrade through the remainder of the season, as well as some added peace of mind in the event that Moreland/Davis can't get the job done ... and if there's one thing we've learned in the post-Teixeira era, it's that first base offense shouldn't be taken for granted.